Fiesta de la Mercè


With summer having left us, one more party to celebrate autumn may be in order. Pavla Tolonen finds Barcelona’s Fiesta de la Mercè particularly inspiring for this.

Human towers, endless food stalls and plush parades are only a few of the features at this year’s Fiesta de la Mercè festival in Barcelona.

The event, which commemorates the city’s patron saint La Mercè (Virgin of Mercy), has been celebrated since 1902 as a welcome ritual for autumn. The festivities were banned under the rule of Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator who ran the country for forty years suppressing any non-Spanish activities, but were reinstated after he died in 1975.

Now the festival is an amalgamation of several extended local festivities, which together form a massive jubilation with over 500 different activities, including fireworks, a regatta, judo, swimming, sailing and a human tower building experiment.

The human tower is the most famous of all the Fiesta de la Mercè activities. Each year climbers, dressed in traditional ‘castellers’ outfits, attempt to outdo the previous year’s achievement regarding the amount of human layers in the tower. Despite eager attempts to add an additional layer, the tower usually hovers around eight layers.

Another popular element is the parade which includes the ‘correfoc’ (dancing devils), a display of fire-breathing dragons and costumed wooden devils, called ‘gegantes’.

Although most of the festivities explore religious connotations, not all elements focus on a religious significance. Most citizens of Barcelona, as well as tourists visiting the city, participate in the traditional celebrations to recognise the freedom Barcelona now has to be openly Catalan.

Festival goers can enjoy the event for a few days in the fourth week of September, usually around 24 September. It begins at Plaza de Sant Jaume and has various locations across the city. The parade moves across the city boasting colourful outfits and exuberant dancing.

Live musical performances, dance workshops and displays, as well as, orchestras and DJs are a keen part of the day. The Moll de la Fusta will host circus acts, while dance troupes and performing acts will take place at the Plaça St Rei.

The event also celebrates the birth of Cava, Catalonia’s own version of champagne, which has its own designated event a few weeks after the Fiesta de la Mercè.

For more information please visit the official festival at

Image credit: digitalismo

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